|Deep in the woods, lost and hungry: Hänsel and Gretel |
approaching the witch's house made out of gingerbread.
Enough of those atavistic reflections. Let me rather dig into the BZ article entitled: The trees and we. What I learned was that German attachment to their woods dates back to the Middle Ages where arable farmland was scarce and generally insufficient to feed the families with many children given the poor agricultural yield in those times. There was no room for pastureland thus farmers drove horses, cows, and pigs into the woods to look for their food. Those pigs were particularly happy. For lunch, they ate acorns and beechnuts, dug for cockchafer grubs for dinner and closed their meal with truffles.
The woods generally belonged to the nobles who charged the farmers rental for their use. Whilst in the beginning only a few Pfennigs sufficed in later years the owner asked for more so that the expression Schweinegeld (pigs’ money) was coined and today still means that something is very expensive.
The noble class took good care of their woods as hunting grounds. A good example is the Prussian king’s deer garden that once stretched in Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate to Charlottenburg Palace. The Tiergarten became public when during the 1848 Revolution people got the right to smoke there in public. Were the authorities at that time more liberal than today?
Most of our woods were spared in the 19th century as, contrary to England, the Industrial Revolution in Germany came later and coal from the Ruhr satisfied the need for heat. A notable exception is the Black Forest where glass-works and smelting demanded enormous amounts of wood. The Baden people, however, were clever and soon started a program of afforestation.
Another important use of wood was and still is housing. Although building in stone diminishes the fire risk, in the past, only those people who were steinreich (stone rich) could afford to build stone houses.